Nigeria’s saboteurs and Pantami

In her famous quotes, Joybell C. says; ‘’The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

It’s obvious that people like me who know Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, former Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and  Nigeria’s current Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, will definitely be surprised. This surprise stems from the fact that the former highly recognised university don with local and international repute cum standing and above all, one of the nation’s famous Islamic clerics, has thrown himself and his hard-earned reputation into Nigeria’s murky waters of politics to have at the first instance accepted to serve under democratic government.

In spite my firm fitting into a different political party other than that which Dr. Pantami is serving under; I believe we owe this nation a duty of contributing our quota for her development beyond political lines.

No doubt, in the present epoch, to have the likes of Dr. Pantami serving in a democratic government is simply a creation of a hero out of ruptures. His superlative records of achievement in NITDA say a lot about his capacity and persona.

I can’t quite say I am surprised by the revelation by Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami, that some shameless irredentists are out to sabotage his genuine efforts of reforming the communication sector.

Nevertheless, I still feel sorry for him. Dr. Pantami, like many ideologues Nigerians, must surely have stepped into his new role as minister of that very strategic ministry that ought to have meant, and contributed so much, yet had given close to nothing to the Nigerian economy, with a great deal of zest, of determination and focus.

This then, is the reason why the telltale signs of a gang up against him should never catch him and Nigerians by surprise. He should know that he will be marked, for daring to do things differently and therefore stepping on many toes that have been shortchanging Nigerians, especially in the telecommunication sector.

His irksome insistence that things must be done not to please the few who have been feeding fat, off kickbacks, at the expense of Nigerians should naturally irritate the shameless and leprotic lot. And, since they don’t have the leverage to concoct a lie with which to run to the president to have him fired, the next thing is to use our under remunerated, fair weather media men who work for debt riddled media houses to get back at him. And if for any reason, the media houses got scared of the minister’s stellar and unblemished credentials, there’s still a-five-a-penny srmy willing to do just about anything for a few quid.

Dr. Pantami’s greatest sin would have been not to have factored the shenanigans of these age-old saboteurs into whatever plan he brought into the party and bring policies that are unshackling Nigerians from the captivity of imperial legacies of the telecom industrialists.

However, seeing what he did while at NITDA, I doubt if the day of reckoning will even hold him to that sin. This brings in the burning question: Did Pantami actually plan for this eventuality?

Knowing full well the character in Dr. Pantami, one thing is sure: before the minister will come out to bare all to the media that a cache of cash, a war chest if you like, is in the process of being put together to be deployed in executing a media smear campaign against his person and the people-oriented policies he’s gestating at the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, he sure must have been dragged through the first two stages in the modus operandi of these small men as highlighted above. Needless to say, we are at the last leg of that process because desperation has kicked in.

This is why I must commend the minister for his counter attack approach. He’s right to be worried about the Nigerian media which many think is an avenue to wage war against perceived threats. Many upright Nigerians have been consumed by the antics of these boogeymen of progress because they left everything to chance. You don’t do that in Nigeria, not in spite of, but especially when you have set out to affect this nation positively.

To take the path of naiveté and the all-consuming stand that your piety and sincere intentions will vindicate you is not only dangerous to your reputation as a person, but also to the society who would have lost an operative genuinely interested in their plight. Believe it or not, posterity will also judge you for allowing yourself to be easily written off the good you ought to have brought to the people.

For someone like Pantami, who is staying true to character and is shattering the status quo, while also refusing to play ball in a typical quid pro quo Nigerian manner, it is inevitable that he will naturally find himself pitched against the dark landlords of Nigeria who do not only feel threatened by his progressive stand, but also shortchanged by his stubborn resolve to do right by the people. Since throwing in the towel is not an option if just for Nigeria’s sake, then Dr. Pantami must also prepare to fight fire with fire. He must prepare to jealously guard his conduct, policies and wins and the only way to do it is through the media.

The Igbo people have a saying that any issue not brought out to be dispassionately discussed can never ever be brought to an end. And this is where Pantami must now angle to make a friend of the real media machinery. From here onwards, the minister must ensure that everything he’s doing for, and on behalf of the Nigerian public, especially the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of it must be public knowledge. No smear campaign can survive when information about what is been done is already with the public. This is because these folks anchor their propaganda on falsehood which unfortunately is fuelled by secrecy and official silence.

Nigerians must now also accept the responsibility for whatever befalls a public official whose every day in office is spent trying to better them. Sincerely, if Nigerians have had the presence of mind to critically query the falsehood bandied by unscrupulous elements against upright folks, the nation won’t still be grappling with recurrent issues that have refused to be overcome since independence. It is that dismissive and generalist acceptance that every government appointee is corrupt until proven guilty that I reckon is emboldening kleptocrats by the day.

Kera, a media consultant, writes from Kaduna.

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